THE MORNING PLUM:

With the Republican Party cracking up over whether to continue to support Donald Trump’s imploding presidential campaign, the Post reports this morning that Democrats are beginning to think they have a genuine chance at recapturing the House of Representatives.

Most of the evidence suggests that this remains a real long shot. But some new internal polling by Democrats hints at a dynamic that appears to be taking shape and is interesting in its own right: It may be too late for Republicans to gain much from distancing themselves from Trump.

The Post report notes that new polling conducted for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has found that tying the generic House Republican candidate to Trump hurts him or her, but crucially, the generic House GOP candidate is also hurt if respondents are told that he or she has recently withdrawn support for Trump:

While a generic ballot tests shows a Democrat up by 7 points over any Republican lawmaker, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s poll — conducted nationwide by the Global Strategy Group — shows the Democratic candidate has a 12-point edge if the Republican recently withdrew their support from Trump. If a Republican lawmaker continues to support Trump, the private polling shows they are at a similar 12-point deficit….
The survey showed than 61 percent of voters said Republicans who decided to withdraw support for Trump over the past few days “lack character and integrity” compared to 39 percent who said those Republicans “are showing character and integrity for standing up to Donald Trump.”

Dem operatives have concluded that

Republicans are now stuck in the impossible position of either embracing their party’s presidential nominee and alienating swing voters critical to maintaining their hold on Congress or rejecting him and angering their base.

As you can see, the polling also suggests cutting Trump loose, in addition to angering the base, may not earn a GOP lawmaker much credit from swing voters. Now, you should always treat internal polls with suspicion. But it’s worth noting that Global Strategy Group is a highly rated pollster, and also that yesterday’s NBC/WSJ poll found a similar seven point advantage for Democrats in the generic ballot match-up.

If this assessment is right, please remember: This was eminently predictable. Indeed, some people actually predicted it. As GOP strategist and former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller pointed out in early August, when Trump was embroiled in a huge public fight with the Khan family, that was the time for GOP lawmakers and officials to cut Trump loose, because all indications were that he would only get worse over time. If they didn’t, Miller noted, they ran a serious risk:

“If Republicans are going to have to disavow Trump eventually because of how bad his behavior has gotten, it is incumbent on them to get the political benefit of doing it when it’s a principled stand, rather than waiting until they are backed into a corner and there’s no other choice.”

Of course, now Republicans are backed into a corner, by the sex tape revelations. And, having stood by him despite months of his racism, hate speech, and pathological abusiveness, it’s possible they may not get much benefit from severing themselves from him at the last minute.

Now, even if this is correct, there is still no telling how it will impact the outcome of the battle for the House. As the Post story notes, Democrats are now ratcheting up their ads tying House GOP incumbents to Trump, and they are targeting some 49 GOP-held seats in districts that Barack Obama won in 2012 or came close to winning. But Democrats have to capture a forbidding 30 seats, and as of today, the Cook Political Report still rates only 26 GOP-held seats as either Toss-ups or Leaning Democratic.

But still, it does appear that many GOP lawmakers in swing districts might be ensnared in something of a Trump Trap. This was neatly illustrated by this Trump tweet today about Paul Ryan, in response to Ryan’s announcement that he will no longer be campaigning for Trump and will devote himself solely to protecting his House majority:

Trump is already blaming Ryan for his own tanking poll numbers. And he has already signaled that other GOP lawmakers who are insufficiently loyal to him will also be in his cross-hairs.

And so, this Trump Trap was created in part by GOP lawmakers’ willingness to stick by him even as he sank deeper into madness and depravity. The swing voters in these relatively-Obama-friendly districts may now see Trump as being more toxic than ever, perhaps rendering Dem efforts to tie them to him more potent. Meanwhile, the very fact that they stuck by him for so long could make it harder for them to evade such attacks.

But at the same time, the Trump voters these lawmakers also need are perhaps growing angrier as the clock ticks down and victory seems to be slipping away. They may not look kindly on GOP lawmakers who are perceived to be deserting him and in so doing making a Trump loss more likely. And Trump is going to do all he can to feed that rage on his way down.

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* REPUBLICANS BRACE FOR MORE TRUMP SLIME: The New York Times reports that House Republicans expect more stuff that is just as bad as the sex tape to come out about Trump in coming days. Here’s Rep. Scott Rigell, a Virginia moderate:

“There’s a consensus, even among supporters, that the likelihood of something else breaking in a very embarrassing and negative fashion is certainly better than 50-50. The conference, members, et cetera, are bracing themselves for another salvo of this.”

But as the Times notes, Trump says that if more revelations come, he’ll respond by cranking up the attacks on Bill Clinton’s affairs, so it should all be fine.

* GUESS WHO’S BEHIND TRUMP’S BILL CLINTON STRATEGY? The Post ferrets it out:

Trump’s blistering method is being orchestrated by Stephen K. Bannon, the campaign’s chief executive and former head of the acerbic conservative website Breitbart, who has become a near-omnipresent counselor at Trump’s side. He has urged Trump not to worry about any cleavage in party ranks and instead to target Clinton.

No one could have predicted that turning the Trump campaign into a Breitbart subsidiary could have produced such a divisive outcome.

 * CLINTON URGES VOTERS TO REJECT TRUMPISM: On the campaign trail, Clinton is now making the case that the ugliness of the debate is a reason to get out and vote:

“That’s what the other side wants you to feel, that ‘I’m not going to vote because it’s so nasty.’ That’s the main reason to vote, to make it clear that we’re not going to put up with that kind of attitude.”

As I’ve suggested, Trump’s best hope was to try to pull Clinton down into the pig slop with him. But this may backfire, making core Dem groups more eager to vote.

According to a source familiar with the plans, Priorities USA is currently producing television ads to potentially air in Senate contests in North Carolina, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania — all competitive races that are also battleground states for the presidential race….Although plans are still being finalized, the push would likely start next week, and last three weeks until Election Day.

One thing to watch: if Clinton’s lead continues to expand, pressure will mount on her to do more for Dem efforts to take back the Senate and even the House.

* EARLY VOTING COULD BOOST CLINTON: Jeremy Peters reports that preliminary data shows that Clinton is building an early lead in the early vote. Two states to watch:

Democrats are requesting more absentee ballots in Florida than they were at this point in 2012, with increases of 50 percent in the heavily Hispanic areas around Miami and Orlando. In North Carolina, where Mitt Romney built enough of a lead in early voting four years ago to edge out a victory over President Obama, Democrats are requesting mail-in ballots in larger numbers than in 2012, while Republicans’ participation is declining.

And if Trump loses either of those, he probably has no path. Meanwhile, you’re probably shocked that Hispanics are clamoring to vote early this year. What could possibly be the reason for that?

* DOZENS OF GOP LAWMAKERS HAVE CUT OFF TRUMP: Here’s the Associated Press’s count:

Forty Republican senators and congressmen have revoked their support for the Republican presidential nominee — with nearly 30 of them calling on him to quit the race altogether in recent days. Few were passionate Trump supporters to begin with, the last straw being a video released late last week revealing the former reality television star using predatory language regarding women a decade earlier.

Still, it looks like the debate may have stopped the exodus, at least for the time being.

 * SIGHTING: CLIMATE CHANGE ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL!!! Al Gore campaigns with Clinton today in Florida, and Annie Karni notes his presence is meant to remind young voters that voting third party can have consequences. (Remember Gore, Ralph Nader, and Florida?) Also:

Gore will also be making the case about climate change, an issue that motivates millennial voters, especially in Florida, the state with the most property and the biggest population currently at risk from rising sea levels.

Good to see someone is talking about it!

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, CLOSED CONSERVATIVE FEEDBACK LOOP EDITION: Newt Gingrich is certain, absolutely certain, that Trump won the last debate:

“They’ve really raised the ante on Republicans who want to cut and run. How can you have watched that debate without knowing he won?”

Conservative voters feel Trump won, which means GOP lawmakers will now have a tougher time cutting him loose. Never mind whether Trump won in the minds of other voters.